CLIFF Owuor has rated this year’s Fiba-Africa Men’s Club Championship in Tunisia as one of the toughest in the history of the competition.
Owuor, arguably APR’s most celebrated coach guided the club to an eighth spot finish in the annual tournament which climaxed last Saturday.
Although this was a drop from last year when the indomitable lions finished 7th, the ex-Kenyan international highlighted that most of the teams this year were up to the task compared to last year.
“This year, teams came very prepared for the challenge. Many had reinforced their squads. In fact some even brought in players from Europe and USA so every game was a tough one,” admitted the 33-year-old.
“Some teams had two-three players and we all know two-three players can make a big difference in any team.
“Last year, three Angolan teams reached the final but this time, only two (Primeiro and ASA) managed to get that far clearly showing the level of competitiveness.
“We did well although I think we could have done better with good preparation,” the Kenyan added.
“We camped for two weeks but I think we should have camped for about six weeks to get ourselves in the right shape both physically and in the mind”
APR qualified for the tournament after winning this year’s Zone 5 Club Championship in Ethiopia.
In Tunisia, APR were drawn in Group A alongside Etoile du Sahel (Tunisia), Swallows (Togo), Kano Pillars (Nigeria), ASA (Angola) and Lupopo of DR. Congo.
The indomitable lions secured two wins over Lupopo and Swallows to progress to the quarter-finals but that was about it as they were immediately knocked out by ASA.
APR also lost three successive classification games to eventually finish 8th.
Meanwhile, defending champions Primeiro de Agosto retained their title after beating Etoile du Sahel of Tunisia 57 – 54 in a grand finale. It was Primeiro’s fourth title in the championship which is rated as Africa’s most coveted club competition.
During the ten-day event, Aboubakar Barame (point guard), Serge Kabangu (power forward) and Prince Ntwali (shooting forward) stood out as APR’s outstanding players and Owuor was quick to praise the trio.
“The entire team played quite well but this trio was outstanding,” he added.
Libya’s El Shabbab might have finished outside the top five but the North African side clearly dominated the individual awards.
The Libyan side produced the tournament’s best scorer Issa Mohamed Issa (145pts), best rebounder Yagoub Alamine (101 rebounds) and best three-pointer Issa Mohamed (26).
Primeiro’s Joaquim Gomes undoubtedly the tournament’s best player walked away with the MVP award. The tournament’s dream team was evenly shared amongst the teams.
Dream Team: Omar Mouhli (ESS of Tunisia), Issa Mohamed (El Shabbab), Atef Maoua (ESS), Dennis Ebikoro (Kano Pillars of Nigeria) and Gomes Joaquim (Primeiro).
1 Primeiro de Agosto (ANGOLA)
2 E.S.S (TUNISIE)
3 A.S.A (ANGOLA)
4 Stade Nabeulien (TUNISIE)
5 Kano Pillars (NIGERIA)
6 El Shabbab Arabi (LIBYE)
7 Union Bank (NIGERIA)
8 A.P.R (RWANDA)
9 Swallows (TOGO)
10 A.S.B Onatra (RD CONGO)
11 B.A.C.K (GUINEE)
12 Lupopo (RD CONGO)